Tourism Can Reduce Poverty But Some Places Must Be Off-Limits

img_0330By Stephen Leahy*

QUEBEC CITY, Mar 24 (Tierramérica)More than ever before, global tourism must play its part in sustainable development and poverty alleviation, stated experts at an international symposium in this Canadian city.

But others wonder if tourism can be truly sustainable when it involves flying thousands of kilometres to reach some “carbon-neutral” eco-lodge in the jungle.

Climate change is a major concern and air transport makes a significant contribution, sustainable tourism expert Costas Christ told more than 500 attendees of the International Symposium on Sustainable Tourism Development, Mar. 16-19.

However, Christ said, it is also important to tell the public that international tourism has played a major role in preserving biodiversity and in conservation in general.

“Without tourism, the Pantanal (in South America), the world’s largest wetland, would have just turned into a major cattle feed-lot for McDonald’s,” said Christ, a former board chair of The International Ecotourism Society.

If it weren’t for tourism, Africa would not have its game parks and nature preserves, and the Coral Triangle (which encompasses the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste) would have been devastated by overfishing, he continued.

“Tourism is not the problem; the challenge is how to do tourism right,” Christ told Tierramérica in an interview. Continue reading

Plastic Bottles Leach Estrogen – ‘Healthy’ Mineral Water Contaminated by Plastic

churning-ocean-sml1An analysis of commercially available mineral waters in Germany reveals estrogenic compounds leaching out of the plastic packaging into the water. What’s worse these chemicals are potent and affected the development of  invertebrate embryos. Estrogen contamination was found in  78% of waters in plastic bottles and waters bottled in composite packaging.

“We must have identified just the tip of the iceberg in that plastic packaging may be a major source of xenohormone* contamination of many other edibles. Our findings provide an insight into the potential exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals due to unexpected sources of contamination.” — write the study authors in the journal of Environmental Science and Pollution Research.

*man-made substance that has a hormone-like effect

See also:  A Mar 27/09 discovery that two commonly used food additives are estrogenic has led scientists to suspect that many ingredients added to the food supply may be capable of altering hormones–Environmental Health News

My Related Articles/Posts:
Male Infertility Linked to Pesticides

30 Million Lead-laden TVs Dumped on Poor Countries

Top Ten Worst Pollution Problems That Kill Millions – Including Ones You’ve Never Heard Of

Acid Oceans and Seas Without Fish – Hot New Doc


Lots of buzz about a hot, new documentary film A Sea Change which is about ocean acidification and its potential to empty the oceans of fish. I haven’t seen the film although I had a chance to at a seafood conference in San Diego last month but couldn’t face a visual version of a topic I’ve written about since 2006.  I have enough trouble sleeping as it is… 

Turns out the filmmakers got the idea to make the film by ‘googling’  “ocean acidification” in Nov 2006 and found very few entries. I guess my 2006 articles were among the first-ever articles published about ocean acidification and how climate change is a major threat to the global oceans. — Stephen

July 5 2006

Ailing Reefs Face New Threat of Acidity
By Stephen Leahy

Climate change is making the world’s oceans more acidic, seriously endangering marine ecosystems, including coral reefs. 

Carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have already made the oceans 30 percent more acidic than they have been in millions of years, according to a new report by leading scientists. And the rate of acidification is accelerating as the oceans absorb more than two billion tonnes of carbon each year from the atmosphere. 

“This is a dramatic change in the world’s oceans, a change that marine organisms have never dealt with before,” said Joan Kleypas, the report’s lead author and a scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. 

“The oceans have changed and they are becoming more acidic. There is no debate about this,” Kleypas told IPS. Continue reading

Earth Hour, Mar 28. The world’s first global election.


The WWF is using the annual Earth Hour as a way to get folks thinking about climate change and to send a message to policy makers that the people of the planet are deeply worried. Damn right we are — Stephen

From Earth Hour: Vote Earth – The world’s first global election:


On March 28 you can VOTE EARTH by switching off your lights for one hour.

IN 2009, EARTH HOUR IS BEING TAKEN TO THE NEXT LEVEL, with the goal of 1 billion people switching off their lights as part of a global vote. Unlike any election in history, it is not about what country you’re from, but instead, what planet you’re from. VOTE EARTH is a global call to action for every individual, every business, and every community. A call to stand up and take control over the future of our planet.

Over 74 countries and territories have pledged their support to VOTE EARTH during Earth Hour 2009, and this number is growing everyday.

“Earth Hour is a way for the citizens of the world to send a clear message. They want action on climate change.”

— UN Secretary-General Ban.

“Earth Hour 2009 will be even bigger because the threats posed by unchecked climate change are escalating, along with people’s concern. We need every individual, government and business to play a part. Earth Hour provides a constructive platform for engaging these stakeholders and demonstrates the impact we can have when we act together. 
— Julia Marton-Lefèvre Director General, IUCN

The results of the election are being presented at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009. We want one billion votes for Earth, to tell world leaders that we have to take action against global warming.


Interview With One of the Last Environmental Journalists Left Standing

steve-on-log-in-oz-rslpixApparently as one of the few independent international environmental journalists I’m a rare beast worthy of public curiosity. In the past year I’ve been asked to do a number of talks at various conferences, colleges and universities in a number of countries and a growing number of media interviews.

Here’s my  15 min radio interview on the well-informed Radio EcoShock— talk about hard questions on big issues of our time. (@ 19:00 min)

Vancouver’s wonderful RADIO ECOSHOCK is the best environmental radio/podcast programs on the planet. One hour each week of new, innovative and intelligent information with a wry sense of humor by host Alex Smith. Check out his blog for even more.

Get links to my latest articles once a week.

This week’s EcoShock program: PROGRESS AND DENIAL

Climate change is not about politics or negotiations, but inevitable physics and science. Latest speeches by Bill McKibben and Van Jones. A look at twisted climate deniers John Coleman and Michael Savage. Interview with indy enviro journalist Stephan Leahy. Humour from Craig Mayhemradio-eco-header

Smart, Realistic Action on Climate Will Bring Long Term Prosperity


By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 16 (IPS) – The high-level scientific climate conference that concluded last week in Copenhagen warned that humanity is rapidly approaching an irreversible, 1,000-year-long climate catastrophe.

The good news is that this dark future has an escape hatch: make major and immediate reductions in carbon emissions.

However, climate change activists worry that instead, trillions of dollars, endless hours of media coverage and all of policy-makers’ attention are being devoted to the economic crisis. That’s a bit like trying to get a clearer channel on the radio as your car is about to slam full speed into a bridge abutment, they say.

And while the current economic crisis affects tens of millions of people, the economic system has long been nothing but a “global Ponzi scheme,” as Paul Reitan, a geologist and climate expert at the University of Buffalo, commented recently.

This system, rooted in the concept of never-ending growth, was always guaranteed to collapse because humanity is living off Earth’s limited capital – natural resources and services provided by healthy ecosystems.

“Let’s be practical, we live on ‘Lifeboat Earth'” and need to base our values, norms and institutions on this reality, asserts Reitan. Continue reading

Aquaculture To Double Production But Will It Destroy the Oceans?

salmon_farmsBy Stephen Leahy

SAN DIEGO, U.S., Feb 16 (Tierramérica) – With wild fish catches in sharp decline, aquaculture, which now accounts for nearly half of all seafood consumed, is expected to double production over the next two decades.

“Aquaculture is the future… [It] will be a major industry in the (developing) South and will be a major source of employment and income, replacing wild catch in terms of importance,” according to Jason Clay, a scientist with the U.S. branch of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) predicts that per capita seafood consumption will increase 1.5 kilogrammes in the coming two decades, Clay told the nearly 500 participants in the recent Seafood Summit, held in the U.S. Pacific coast city of San Diego.

The international meet earlier this month, organised by Seafood Choices Alliance, gave fishers, fish farmers, multinational seafood corporations and seafood buyers a chance to mix with conservationists and scientists to debate – and attempt to find common ground about – the question: Can aquaculture be environmentally and socially responsible? Continue reading

So Long, Salamanders

Bradytriton silus, a salamander of the Guatemalan cloud forest long thought to be extinct but rediscovered this January 2009.
Bradytriton silus, a salamander of the Guatemalan cloud forest long thought to be extinct but rediscovered this January 2009.

By Stephen Leahy*

SAN DIEGO, U.S., Feb 21 (Tierramérica) – Mesoamerica’s salamanders appear to be joining the global decline in amphibian species, like frogs, adding to the evidence of ecological change around the planet.

“What’s happening to salamanders and other amphibians may be a strong lesson for humans,” says lead researcher David Wake, of the University of California at Berkeley.

There are global changes that are altering ecosystems and disease patterns, thus creating new elements of biological pressure, he said.

Wake and his colleagues have discovered that several salamander species have vanished or have become very rare since the 1970s in closely studied areas in western Guatemala and the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. These findings were published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Climate change and disease are likely causing the declines but scientists do not know why, Wake, one of the world’s salamander experts, told Tierramérica.

“We don’t know what the impacts are on local ecosystems, but they could be significant,” he said. Continue reading